Communication is the key to every successful relationship and nowhere is that more true than in the agency business. Whether it's internal communications helping you get the work through the agency or external communications helping you manage client expectations, how, when and what you say will either help drive the project (and team) to success or doom it to failure.
We've spent a fair amount of time in agencies (OK, decades, but who's counting?) and have boiled down some useful tips born of experience, trial and error.
Tell It Like It Is
Things rarely go as planned, and when they don't there's a desire to sugar-coat or edit the feedback (or simply not share the news at all) with the hope that something will change and everything will get put right again. Resist that urge. Share it all right from the start. If the team finds out you're editing the truth they'll feel played and you'll lose their trust. Honesty is always the best policy (delivered with tact of course), and it can help draw the team together. Most projects are a roller coaster ride of ups and downs - you should expect the entire team to go on that roller coaster together. After all, that's one of the benefits of being a team; being there to support each other, congratulate each other and reassure each other through the ups and downs.
All For One and One For All
It's critical that you convey to the team that in order to be successful everyone has to work together and everyone has to get their individual job done. Sure, there are always "prima donnas" and "individual contributors" at agencies, but you don't want those people to become your problem. If you're trying to row the boat alone, you're destined for failure. Instead, use your team communications to reinforce a sense of togetherness. That way, when someone slacks off, they have the pressure of the whole team on them vs just you. Successful teams don't let individual team members fail.
Share The Good And The Bad
If you're like most people, it's much easier to relay compliments than negative feedback, but good team communication includes both - conveyed tactfully in an actionable way. Finding the right words takes time, but it's worth doing because everyone deserves to hear what they're doing right and what they need to improve on. Leverage the team dynamic when sharing difficult feedback. Think about how the team as a whole can help solve the situation. If a team is working together successfully, any error is a team problem, not an individual problem.
Give Updates Even When There's Nothing To Update
We all assume that something is happening even when nothing is, so send the team updates even when you have nothing to share. Doing so will keep the project top of mind for everyone and prevent rumors from breaking out. It's much easier to keep a project going - even at a minimal level of activity - than it is to restart a stalled project. Sharing "No New News" updates also motivates the Account and/or Project Management members to generate movement.
Team communications should get straight to the point. Yes, it takes longer to condense thoughts and feedback into short, actionable snippets, but the team (and clients) will thank you for it. If someone wants more detail around a particular topic, they can reach out to you directly. One of the most common complaints about team communications is how difficult it can be to stay on top of them all. The quicker a team member is able to scan what you've sent and immediately take away what you need from them, the quicker they can get back to work and help the project succeed. When it comes to team communication content, less is definitely more.
Keep It Digital
When team communications stray offline into post-it notes, etc. it becomes difficult to track and record them for reference during the project or after. Try to keep everyone working in the digital realm. If they're drawn to visual communications (like Post-It notes), use agile project management tools like Kanban boards to create a visual, collaborative communication space for everyone to see what's going on. Advantage software utilizes digital Kanban boards and other highly visual project management features to promote collaboration and streamline the communication process as much as possible. Task management software like Advantage can also help keep other communications in the digital space by providing electronic job jackets that house critical documents and communications, alerts that help team members manage deadlines and deliverables and even a Client Portal to help organize and streamline the communications with clients.
If you've ever been part of a successful, high-functioning team, you know how rewarding the experience can be. Use these tips to help your next team be the best experience possible for everyone involved.
Share your own experiences and tips below, or if you'd like to see what an integrated agency management system like Advantage can do to help streamline your team communications, let us show you by scheduling a free demo.